Saturday, 31 July 2010

“Sweet Soul Music – 31 Scorching Classics From 1964” by VARIOUS ARTSTS [Volume 4 of 15] (2008 Bear Family CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…I Just Kept On Saying…Oh No Not My Baby…"

Compilations like this live or die based on a few key ingredients - great track choices, properly remastered sound and all of it wrapped up in knowledgeable and (if you're lucky) sumptuous presentation. Well "Sweet Soul Music" wins on all counts - it really does. The entire series is gorgeous to look at and especially to listen to.

Released July 2008 in Germany, "Sweet Soul Music - 31 Scorching Classics From 1964" is on Bear Family BCD 16870 AS and is part of a 10-volume series stretching from 1961 to 1970 (I've reviewed 1965 and the second five in the series which were released in September 2009 - 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969 and 1970). Each US-based yearly compilation comes in a 3-way foldout card digipak sleeve. The left flap pictures a 7" single in its label bag relevant to the year (1964 has "Needle In A Haystack” by The Velvelettes), the centre flap holds a 60 to 90 page oversized booklet that slips out so you can read it separately and the right flap a colour-themed CD that matches the outer packaging. As with the 16 titles in Bear Family's award-winning "Blowing The Fuse" CDs from 1945 to 1960, each spine in the "Sweet Soul Music" series also makes up a whole photo when placed alongside each other (a live shot of a singer leaning into an audience to make a handshake - I think it's Otis Redding). This 1964 issue has 88-pages in its booklet (yes 88!) with The Dixie Cups on the front sleeve and The Larks in dance mode on the inner flap - and it runs to a whopping 81:40 minutes.

I raved about Dave "Daddy Cool" Booth's sequencing on the other editions - it's the same here. Proceedings open with the crystal clear Doo Wop intro to “What Kind Of Fool (Do You Think I Am)” by The Tams which is followed by the zippy “brought you from the South” song “Gonna Send You Back To Georgia (A City Slick)” by Timmy Shaw. There’s a lot of middle-tempo tunes that are part Rhythm ‘n’ Blues and part Soul like the cool dancer “The Jerk” by The Larks and while B.B. King’s bar-band standard “Rock Me Baby” is pure Blues and Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place To Go” is Rock ‘n’ Roll – both are welcome inclusions (the stereo on the Berry track in particular is fabulous). Genius choices include the lovely slow build of “Steal Away” by Jimmy Hughes, the Mink DeVille street shuffle of “Devil With A Blue Dress” by Shorty Long, the punchy James Brown funk of Willie Mitchell’s instrumental “20-75” and the sophisticated crooner vibe of Joe Hinton’s “Funny (How Time Slips Away)”.

Booth took his time with this - actually playing the set through - mixing in the famous with the obscure but in a new order - and the result is a truly satisfying listen rather than a patchy one. The compilation begins in January and in rough chronological order ends in December. Also, because of the extended playing time, there's usually only a one second space between each track, so it feels like you're listening to a jukebox of the time - or a good DJ cueing up song after song - seamlessly segueing one cool tune after another. And even the way-too-familiar tracks on here like "My Guy", "Dancing In The Street'" and "Under The Boardwalk" are sorted out by the next big plus...the beautifully clear sound...

Bear Family have gotten all the ORIGINAL master tapes from each record company (good Stereo preferred over Mono) and their resident expert JURGEN CRASSER has mastered them with care - the sound is GLORIOUS. The clarity on the sublime "On No Not My Baby" by Maxine Brown (lyrics above) is thrilling. The Acapella vocal intro to “Chapel Of Love” by The Dixie Cups is so squeaky clean as are the bass and brass parts that follow. It’s impressive stuff soundwise…

Like all the other issues I've covered, the booklet is to die for. The text for the songs begins on Page 4 and ends on Page 84, so there's very little wasted space. Each artist is pictured using quality publicity shots, the 7" single is usually sat beside that - and even if it isn't - the album it came off is - with most of it in colour. Each song then has a 2 to 3 page essay on its history with its title centred like a paper nametag inside a jukebox - a nice touch. Noted writer and soul lover BILL DAHL handles the liner notes with knowledgeable contributions from Colin Escott, Rudigar Ladwig & Bill Millar. And because the booklet allows Dahl to spread out on each song, the details come thick and fast - it's a fabulously entertaining and informative read.

Niggles – purists might say that as many as a third of the tracks on here have little to do with “Soul” and more to do with Pop, R&B and even Blues, but personally I like the way Booth blurs the lines and as a straight-through listen, it all works. Also the Motown-followed-by-Atlantic tracks are 'overplayed' for many of us, but again - and I can't emphasize this enough - 95% of these heard-too-often tracks are at least countered by their great sound - and if that's a complaint, I'll take it any day of the week.

To sum up - even though they're expensive as imports, I think once long-time collectors actually get their hands on even one of these compilations (no matter what the date) - they'll be irresistibly hooked. For the casual buyer just looking for a great one-stop account of Soul Music for a given year - "1964" is 'the' place to start.

After 35 years reissuing Blues, Doo Wop, Fifties Rhythm 'n' Blues, Sixties Pop and huge swathes of Country Music - this is Bear Family's first real foray into Soul Music - and personally I'm weak at the knees thinking about what they'll tackle next.

As you can tell, I'm properly taken aback - I cannot recommend these beautiful compilations enough. Well done to all involved...

Track List for 1964
(Label & Catalogue Number For The US 7" Single Follow The Title)

1. What Kind of Fool (Do You Think I Am) – THE TAMS (ABC-Paramount 10502)
2. Gonna Send You Back To Georgia (A City Slick) – TIMMY SHAW (Vocal Background by The Sternphones) (Audrey 010)
[Reissued on Wand 146]
3. Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um – MAJOR LANCE (Okeh 4-7187)
4. Who Do You Love – THE SAPHIRES (Swan S-4162)
5. Hi-Heel Sneakers – TOMMY TUCKER (Checker 1067)
6. The Way You Do The Things You Do – THE TEMPTATIONS (Gordy 7028)
7. The Shoop Shoop Song (It's In His Kiss) – BETTY EVERETT (Vee Jay VJ-585)
8. Ain't Nothing You Can Do – BOBBY BLAND (DUKE 375)
9. Wish Someone Would Care – IRMA THOMAS (Imperial 66103)
10. Rock Me Baby - B.B. KING (Kent 393)
11. Chapel Of Love – THE DIXIE CUPS (Red Bird RB 10-001)
[Written by Jeff Barry, Ellie Greenwich, Phil Spector]
12. My Guys – MARY WELLS (Motown 1056)
13. No Particular Place to Go – CHUCK BERRY (Chess 1898)
14. Steal Away – JIMMY HUGHES (Fame 6401)
15. Security – OTIS REDDING (Volt 117)
16. Devil With The Blue Dress – SHORTY LONG (Soul 35001)
17. Under The Boardwalk – THE DRIFTERS (Atlantic 2237)
18. Where Did Our Love Go – THE SUPREMES (Motown 1060)
19. 20-75 – WILLIE MITCHELL (Hi 2075)
20. Funny (How Time Slips Away) – JOE HINTON (Back Beat 543)
21. Out Of Sight – JAMES BROWN AND HIS ORCHESTRA (Smash S-1919)
22. Dancing In The Street – MARTHA & THE VANDELLAS (Gordy 7033)
23. That's How Strong My Love Is - O.V. WRIGHT (Goldwax 106)
24. Mercy, Mercy – DON COVAY & THE GOODTIMERS (Rosemart 801)
25. Baby I Need Your Loving – THE FOUR TOPS (Motown 1062)
26. I Had A Talk With My Man – MITTY COLLIER (Chess 1907)
27. I Can't Believe What You Say (For Seeing What You Do) – IKE AND TINA TURNER (Kent 402)
28. Price – SOLOMON BURKE (Atlantic 2259)
29. Oh No Not My Baby – MAXINE BROWN (Wand W 162)
30. The Jerk – THE LARKS (Money 106)
31. Needle In A Haystack – THE VELVETTES (V.I.P. Records V.I.P.-25007)

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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